If she wins election for California Attorney General (AG), San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris will make history as the first woman and African American to head this office. She would also hold the distinction of being the first Asian-American (AG) the state and the first South Asian-American attorney general in the United States of America because of her Indian descent.

She is the daughter of a Tamil Indian mother, Dr. Shyamala Gopalan, a breast cancer specialist, who immigrated to the United States from Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India, in 1960, and a Jamaican American father, Stanford University economics professor Donald Harris.

But that historical distinction is the least of Harris’ concerns as she charges toward election day. Foremost in her thoughts is why she is running for office in the first place.

“California is going through many challenges now, and some rise to the level of being a crisis. We have many systems that need reforming, and the criminal justices system is one of them,” explained the Howard University grad.

One of the key challenges said Harris is the fact that California has the highest recidivism rate in the country.

“. . . of the 120,000 (people) released each year, within three years, 70 percent re-offend; that’s a 7 of 10 failure rate. That’s clear evidence of a broken system,” pointed out the prosecutor, who has also written a book to talk about her approach to crime: “Smart on Crime: A Career Prosecutor’s Plan to Make Us Safer.”

In addition to writing a book on her philosophy, the University of California, Hastings College of the Law graduate created an anti-recidivism program that has been designated by the United States Department of Justice as a model for the country.

“The Back on Track Re-Entry Initiative targets 18-24 year old first-time, low level, non-violent drug sales offenders. It deals with the fact that a lot of these offenders need to get enrolled in city college and/or get a GED; that a’ lot of them have no employable skills, so they need to be enrolled in an apprenticeship. A lot of them are also parents, and have a natural desire to parent their children but not necessarily the skills, so we get help from faith-based and community-based leaders with this,” explained Harris, who says this age group is the most likely one to re-offend.

The result across the last five years has been to reduce the recidivism rate from 54 percent to less than 10 percent.

And scaling up this effort is the kind of leadership the Attorney General can take, pointed out the candidate, who says the program has already been replicated in Atlanta and Philadelphia.

Despite her high-profile anti-crime programs and personal endorsement by many police chiefs around the state, Harris has failed to win the support of the major police organizations.

She has also had to fend off accusations that she is soft on crime because of her stance on the death penalty–one published report said “Harris has said in the past that she will review the facts of each murder case to make a decision on whether to pursue the punishment.”

Additionally, she was blamed for a scandal involving the San Francisco Police Departments crime lab.

According to a published report, Judge Anne-Christine Massullo wrote ion a 26-page decision that Harris “failed … in two respects” to deal adequately with revelations that crime-lab technician Deborah Madden was suspected of stealing portions of cocaine samples and had a criminal history: By not disclosing information the office possessed about Madden, and by not having a general policy in place to inform defense attorneys of past wrongdoing by prosecution witnesses. (Under the U.S. Supreme Court decision Brady v. Maryland, such information must be shared, in the event defendants want to challenge witnesses’ credibility.)

However, Harris’ candidacy has been buoyed by the backing of Democrats from across the nation, including the nation’s top Demo–Barack Obama.